Katy's Blanket

The story of my blanket began at the Buzzard cabin one spring day many years ago. It is a very precious blanket because I made it myself using wool from my own sheep, woven by my own two hands.

Ox Buzzard not only raised horses but also had a flock of black-faced sheep grazing on the hilly acres of his farm. Every spring he gave one of the new lambs to each of his children so that they had growing flocks of their own. I loved the winsome little creatures who allowed themselves to be petted one minute and sprang away, gamboling merrily after their mothers the next.

The sheep had been gathered at the barn for shearing when I, on Bucket-head Bess, rode up the trail to visit my friends that day. Entranced, I watched Clorinda pinion a ewe between her knees and denude it of its winter coat with her huge flashing shears. As she released the strangely diminished animal and tossed the greasy wool to the pile behind her, she saw the expression on my face and asked, "Would you like to learn to shear, Katy-girl?"

It took patience from Clorinda and enormous effort on my part, but eventually I did learn to strip off a fleece cleanly and in one piece, though never with the deft speed of my teacher. But it was later that afternoon when Roxy asked her father if she might give me her spring lamb and instead, Ox gave me a lamb to start my own flock.

"Katylou be liken one of our own youngins. She shall have her own lamb, free gift and heartily welcome." Ox boomed in his great voice, his eyes as bright with delight as my own at the idea.

So each spring I received another lamb beside the offspring of the ewes already marked as mine and it was not long before my shearings made a sizable pile.

"You must learn to clean and card and spin your wool, Katylou, just as Roxy does." Clorinda said. That took some time for I could not spend the hours at that interesting task that the Buzzard family did. But my store of spun wool grew steadily in the camphor-chest Grandpa made to hold it and the day finally came when I had enough to complete my planned project.

This time it was Grandma who taught me the skill I needed and my plan was to surprise Clorinda with my handiwork. Grandma learned weaving as a girl and had taught her daughters and granddaughters how to set up the loom and weave goods. The old loom was rarely used by then so leaving my material in it was no inconvenience. I worked happily on my blanket every chance I got until finally it was done. Now I would surprise my friends with the gift of a blanket of my own manufacture.

Uncle Bert tied the pannier containing my prize firmly to my saddle before I set out on the familiar trail to the Buzzard clearing. I remember singing happily as I rode through the trees, anticipating Clorinda's and Roxy's surprise and appreciation of my work. As I reached the clearing the family gathered from their several tasks to greet me. The toddler twins joined in Hannie's and Nimmie's chant of "Katylou come, Mammy. Katylou come to play." I was swept off my horse in Ox's huge arms and passed around like a Sunday doll to be hugged in loving welcome.

Finally I managed to unpack my treasure and spread it on the grass in display. It caused every bit of the sensation I had anticiapted, vain thing that I was. Clorinda knelt beside the blanket, holding a corner in her gentle, work-worn hands, feeling its softness as a child fondles a pet kitten. Roxy beamed with delighted pride in her friend's unsuspected accomplishment and Ox, with in-born appreciation of handicraft, nodded his approval with a huge grin on his broad, bearded face.

"Weaved it her own-self, " Clorinda murmured over and over as the children chattered around her. "Katy-girl weaved it her own-self."

"I wove it for you, Mz Clorinda ma'am, to thank you for my lambs and for teaching me to shear and spin." I told her.

But no and no again. My gift was refused. This was the first work completely of my own hands and they would have nothing but that I must keep it, treasure it as only I would be able to do after putting so much of myself into it. So keep it I did, the first and only one of it's kind. In later years I wove rag carpeting but never again did I undertake such an ambitious piece of work as that blanket.

It lay in the camphor-chest until I took it out to spread on my marriage bed and tell Josiah the story of its making. It was used for many years, coming out of each washing bright and sturdy as ever. Finally I noticed signs of wear and packed it tenderly away to be preserved along with it's many memories.

What happened to my flock of sheep? I returned them to Ox in a "free gift" as he had originally given them to me. They had, after all, eaten at his expense and been cared for by him all those years. I had had great pleasure in their possession as well as learned several skills now almost unknown. But it was only fitting that they revert to their real owner as all things do in the end.